WHY don't modern web browsers support Adobe Reader?

New Here ,
Jan 04, 2021

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I understand that modern web browsers are no longer supporting the Adobe PDF plugin (and I've read the Adobe support document that covers this).

I still don't understand WHY.

 

There are countless websites that will not provide the option for downloadable PDFs that can be opened offline in Adobe Reader DC. As an example, the Government of Canada's immigration department's entire library of online forms are inaccessible. You have to —somehow— find a downloadable version of the form, which isn't clearly presented.

Today I'm trying to download a patient tax form from my pharmacy, which offers this via its online service. One button - View Patient Tax Receipt - and you have it to download. But it doesn't work on Safari, Chrome, Firefox in 2021. 

Nor do you have the workaround available - sometimes you can right-click and "Save target as..." to get the PDF. This is not available either (you are presented with an option to search the internet for the text in the button - sigh).

I can't find any stated reason for the lack of support in modern browsers. If they're *all* doing it, then it must have been to address a technical issue, maybe for security, etc., but.... it's driving me a bit nuts not knowing why.

These are all billion-dollar companies... you'd think they'd be able to make the darn thing work, especially as the need remains and so many websites continue to think we should be able to do this.

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Mac, PDF and browsers, PDF forms, View PDF

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Jan 05, 2021

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Exactly why is hard to fathom., and it's a nusance - the universal availability of PDF readers that do only half the job has basically killed PDF files for purposes that needed things in the other half. Browsers are moving away from ANY kind of plugin - now Flash is being killed many browsers will have closed down the last plug-in. I think security is a big thing, but not the only thing. Perhaps they wanted to support PDF files "out of the box" without negotating with Adobe or requiring extra downloads. Perhaps they wanted uniform solutions across platforms including mobile systems where plug-ins cannot exist. 

 

Anyway to pick up on a particular point "There are countless websites that will not provide the option for downloadable PDFs that can be opened offline in Adobe Reader DC.". Really? As far as I am concerned there is no such thing. Please give an example of a web site which shows PDFs that cannot be downloaded, say what happens when you try to download, and say the browser where this happens. 

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mrushton AUTHOR
New Here ,
Jan 05, 2021

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Well, TSN, I assure you they do indeed exist.

 

My present nemesis is YourHealthMatters.ca - the online pharmacy interface where my elderly parents can order refills of their medications, track usage, and - as noted - download a tax receipt.

 

I described that issue above. In further testing (I can be dogged about tech barriers), I found that Chrome will (eventually) download the file, so I resolved my issue.  Safari just pops up the "not installed" warning without downloading the PDF.

 

The Government of Canada website throws up the "the contents of this document will appear shortly" (not verbatim, obviously) but it never does - in Safari and Chrome. In that case, the right-click / save target as  option does work.

 

While I was able to resolve my issue, I imagine there are countless folks who are less technically inclined who will simply be stymied by the situation. Proper web design should not require users to find creative ways to access information - it should just work. Given that it's no surprise that inline PDFs are wonky given the plugin abandonment, those sites where PDF forms are required have a responsibility to either make the process work properly or educate the end-user as to how that material can be accessed.  We tend to assume that these days people are sufficiently technically trained, but there remains an enormous gulf of capabilities among certain populations. 

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Jan 05, 2021

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There are a number of different cases; but in no cases have I seen an actual PDF that can't be downloaded. I'll look at the case 'The Government of Canada website throws up the "the contents of this document will appear shortly" (not verbatim, obviously) but it never does'. In this case the PDF is actually pretty smart; it contains this message as part of the PDF. When opened in Acrobat, the message is instantly covered with the real thing. The brower can't (well, it could if Google etc. were motivated).

 

So downloading it works just fine, if opened in Reader. This is usually a particular type of PDF form which Adobe have recognised is on its way out (for the reasons you've identified). They give tools for live conversion to an HTML form, and they make it really hard to buy the tools to make these forms. But governments change SLOWLY.

 

If you have a publicly visible site where PDF downloads seem to be blocked, please post a web address (URL), I'd like to take a look. I know we can't look at your family's prescriptions!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 05, 2021

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If you can see a document on your screen it is on your computer, even if it has only been downloaded temporarily.

 

The solution to this problem is simple: all browsers have an option that allows them to systematically outsource the opening of PDFs to external software, so Acrobat Reader.

 

By default, "honest" browsers, like Firefox, warn when they display a PDF of which they do not recognize all the elements and prompt to open it in external software.

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mrushton AUTHOR
New Here ,
Jan 05, 2021

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JR - yes, if a PDF diplays, there's a way to "get" it (as you note, by throwing to an external handler), even if it means digging around in /var/tmp/

But as I noted above, there are some sites which employ a mechanism that won't even get us to that point.

 

Given the ubiquity of PDF, accessibility in the post-plugin era should be more of a priority.

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